The Role of Bloodhound 2

This was written by Richard Vernon, BMPG Archivist and Historian, and published on the RAF West Raynham Association Facebook group on 18 September 2018

The principle targets post the reintroduction of UK SAM defences in 1975 would have been low level Su-24 Fencers and Tu-22M Backfires (more likely the former) and reconnaissance Mig-25’s at medium and high altitude. The Tu-96 Bear’s, Tu-22 Blinders and Tu-16 Badgers were stand off missile carriers which were capable of launching their missiles from 150 miles from the target. The standard Soviet long range missile was the AS-4 which came in at Mach 3 and at 80,000 feet. Bloodhound 2’s TIR could track those missiles at useable ranges, but the seeker in the missile couldn’t. On top of this the missile couldn’t reach 80,000 feet and the warhead was optimised to kill large aircraft, not small missiles. The longest range a Bloodhound 2 successfully homed was a impact range of around 68 nautical miles during its service acceptance trials at Woomera in 1964/65 and unless overridden, the systems computer wouldn’t allow an engagement beyond 75NM range. Should WWIII have broken out between 83 and the end of the cold war, a big chunk of Eastern England would have been covered by a Low Level Missile Engagement Zone (LOMEZ) which extended from around 20 miles east off Flamborough head in the North Sea to Doncaster in the north to the Isle of Sheppey and out into North Sea 30 miles east of Clacton on sea to the South. This zone was spilt into 6 lopsided boxes with the north/south centreline running though North Coates, West Raynham and Bawdsey. 85 Sqn covered the front three boxes and 25 Sqn the rest. The LOMEZ extended up to 5000ft above sea level when the zone was active, the missile sections would search for targets within their own boxes and if any target was below 5000 feet, travelling within a certain range of bearings and was flying above a set speed or was jamming, the Missile section could engage immediately. Any target above 5000ft had to be engaged under positive control of the sector control centre at Neatishaed or Squadron control at its ops room level.

Bloodhound 1 wasn’t procured originally for UK air defence as its primary role, but as a Training and Trials weapon to get the RAF into the guided weapon game. This was because when the RAF took control of the system off the Army in 1953 they found it was basically useless in the face of Electronic Countermeasures and Chaff. However the RAF soon realised that to actually gain the knowledge required in how to operate SAM and fighters together, the trials would have to be done on a large-scale and though the system was still pretty useless, it would still be a threat that the soviet’s would have to deal with. Thus the plan was to build a line of Bloodhound 1 sites along the coast from the Humber to the Thames with would provide a barrier defence for London and the Midlands at medium level and these sites would be equipped with a follow on weapon called Blue Envoy which would overcome Bloodhound Mark 1’s limitations. However in 1957 this plan was changed when it was decided that a point defence of the V-bomber and Thor missile sites would be done with Bloodhound Mk 1, which would be then replaced with the Thunderbird Mk 2 being developed for the Army (Blue Envoy being cancelled in May 1957).

Bloodhound 2 came out of design studies done by Bristol and Ferranti in 1957/58 and was part of a twin pronged effort to deal with major threats that neither Bloodhound Mk 1 or Thunderbird Mk 2 could deal with. The major threat was the large high-speed stand-off missile. To deal with this the Bloodhound Mk 3 was proposed. This system used two radars, a Type 87 radar to track the target and a modified Type 83 radar from Bloodhound 1 to track a transponder in the missile and provide command guidance steering commands to the missile from a computer on the ground. The missile was to be fitted with a small nuclear warhead which would allow the system to engage very small high speed targets. To allow the engagement of lower speed larger targets the Bloodhound Mk 2 was proposed which would just use the Type 87 and home on to the target with the missile fitted with a conventional warhead. The intent was the missile section could use either weapon at a flick of a switch. The RAF decided that Bloodhound 2/3 was the way to go and pushed for the weapon development as it solved a lot of basing issues that would have been caused if they had stuck with the much shorter ranged army missile. However in 1960, the Government basically gave up on UK air defence because of the Soviet IRBM threat. They cancelled a major upgrade to the UK air Defence radar system and rerolled it into a combined Air Defence / Air Traffic control system, Cancelled the Blue Streak IRBM program and Bloodhound Mk 3. Bloodhound Mk 2 development continued, however its primary role became a deployable system for air defence of RAF bases in the Middle and Far East where it was more likely that the RAF would be fighting people equipped with manned aircraft and not missiles (Egypt and Indonesia). The UK-based elements were primarily for Training and Reinforcement roles to allow a minimum oversea manning of the overseas bases to save money. UK Air defence was very much a tertiary role for the system when its final operational requirement was released in 1961. The fixed site operational elements in the UK were withdrawn between 1967 and 69 with the drawdown of the V-bomber nuclear deterrent force and the roll out of Polaris missile patrols. The plan was then for 2 squadrons of 6 deployable 4 launcher sections to be based at West Raynham from 1970 onwards for deployable use until the system was phased out.

However, in 1968 NATO introduced its Flexible Response policy which meant that NATO wouldn’t use Nuclear weapons until the Soviets did in any general war. Therefore NATO had to provide its bases in Germany with Hardened facilities on its airbases to allow a reasonable operational life of the aircraft based there. To enhance this they required all bases getting the aircraft shelters and other hardened buildings to be given low level all weather SAM defences and NATO funding for the infrastructure was dependant on this. The only weapon system the RAF had that could do this was Bloodhound, so all of the kit planned for West Raynham was moved to Germany in 1970. This deployment was planned to last until the All Weather Rapier Field Standard B became operational in the early 1980s.

In the early to mid 1970’s the decision was made to build hardened shelters on the RAF and USAF bases in the UK declared to NATO’s SACEUR and SACLANT commands for Nuclear strike, air defence and maritime attack. To get NATO funding for this the user nations (UK and USAF) had to again provide low level air defence. The RAF proposed an area SAM air defence using Bloodhound Mk 2 equipment from storage and returned from Cyprus, with later deployments with equipment returned from West Germany to defend all of the USAF and RAF bases south of the Humber. Anything to the north (all RAF) would get Rapier. NATO agreed with this for the RAF, but had the attitude that the USAF could afford to provide their own SAM defences. This caused the USAF some problems as due to their agreements with the US Army they were not allowed to operate short range SAM and the US Army were not willing to provide them. Therefore, they funded 6 Wing RAF Regiment to defend their bases with Rapier.